CORALVILLE — When country band Lonestar opened with my favorite of the band’s songs, the chart-topping “My Front Porch Looking In,” and it was a bit loosey-goosey, I was a little worried. The Coralville 4th Fest crowd in S.T. Morrison Park on July 3 seemed to share my concern. Certainly, local radio personality Kat Foxx acquitted herself well on fiddle, and it was clear that lead singer Richie McDonald was in fine voice and his mates were locked in on the harmonies, but the band didn’t sound entirely in the groove. “You’re Like Coming Home” featured some fine guitar picking, but still wasn’t quite in the musical pocket.
Next, the band delivered the power ballad “Tell Her,” a song that reveals some of the group’s crossover appeal, but which sat heavily in the high heat of the evening. The crowd was lethargic, and the band noticed, joking that the audience was pacing itself.
After another ballad (“Everything’s Changed”), things picked up again with the southern rockers “What About Now?” and “With Me.” With these lighter numbers, the band came together and the crowd started to get involved. It was a good moment for the band to introduce two new songs from its upcoming record. The ballad had McDonald straining just a bit for the high notes but was still a good number, while the catchy “It’s a Pretty Good Day to be Me” is certainly a potential hit. The new songs fully energized the band, suggesting that the group is excited about the fresh material.
An engaging and concise medley of five hits — including the band’s first single, “Tequila Talkin’” — followed. The band tore through the slightly naughty “Careful Where You Kiss Me” and its somewhat awkward cover of “Walking in Memphis,” before taking a moment to thank America’s service members.
McDonald dedicated the band’s big hit, “I’m Already There,” to members of the military. He handled the ballad gently, ensuring that the song was moving rather than maudlin. The song could easily be over-sung, but McDonald didn’t try to do too much, and the result was lovely.
The band rocked through “You Walked In” and another new tune, a snappy nostalgia number about being a teenager, and then launched into the mega-hit “Amazed.” The band knows this is the big one, and the song was beautifully done, marred only slightly by the decision to let an audience member try to sing the last note.
The encore included a fun blending of the band’s “No News,” with the Beatles’ “Get Back,” as well as the upcoming single from the new record. “The Countdown” further solidified my sense that the new record will be a good one, indeed.
Then, as though to prove they could rock as hard as any rockers, Lonestar offered up solid covers of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” ZZ Top’s “Gimme All You Lovin,’” Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town,” and Kiss’ “Rock N Roll All Night.” Fun performances aside, it did seem odd to leave a Lonestar concert humming those particular tunes.
Iowan Chad Elliott opened the evening with an enjoyable 13-song, blues-soaked set. Taking the stage with a single female harmony vocalist (Bonita Crowe), Elliott performed strong originals and well-selected classics. His warm, pure voice and dexterous guitar work were enough to draw in the early arriving crowd. He winningly covered tunes by Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Simon and Garfunkel, Hank Williams and more.
His originals held up nicely with the familiar songs. His lyrics are well-crafted—“Same Old Way” was a standout in this regard—and his melodies manage to be both catchy and moody. A religious thread runs through some of the tunes, including “The Rapture,” and is wholly appropriate to his style. He closed with his song “Barn’s On Fire,” asking the crowd to consider downloading the tune. I suspect a good portion of the audience will happily do just that.
– Rob Cline